Aims: Smoking is an important risk factor for the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular diseases. This study aimed to further elucidate the role of ceramides, as a key lipid class dysregulated in disease states.
Main methods: In this article we developed and validated LC–MS/MS method for ceramides (Cer(d18:1/16:0), Cer(d18:1/18:0), Cer(d18:1/24:0) and Cer(d18:1/24:1(15Z)) for the absolute quantification. We deployed it together with proteomics and transcriptomic analysis to assess the effects of cigarette smoke (CS) from the reference cigarette as well as aerosols from heat-not-burn (HnB) tobacco and e-vapor products in apolipoprotein E-deficient (ApoE−/−) mice over several time points.
Key findings: In the lungs, CS exposure substantially elevated the ratios of Cer(d18:1/24:0) and Cer(d18:1/24:1) to Cer(d18:1/18:0) in two independent ApoE−/− mouse inhalation studies. Data from previous studies, in both ApoE−/− and wild-type mice, further confirmed the reproducibility of this finding. Elevation of these ceramide ratios was also observed in plasma/serum, the liver, and—for the Cer(d18:1/24:1(15Z)) to Cer(d18:1/18:0) ratio—the abdominal aorta. Also, the levels of acid ceramidase (Asah1) and glucocerebrosidase (Gba)—lysosomal enzymes involved in the hydrolysis of glucosylceramides—were consistently elevated in the lungs after CS exposure. In contrast, exposure to HnB tobacco product and e-vapor aerosols did not induce significant changes in the ceramide profiles or associated enzymes.
Significance: Our work in mice contributes to the accumulating evidence on the importance of ceramide ratios as biologically relevant markers for respiratory disorders, adding to their already demonstrated role in cardiovascular disease risk assessment in humans.